Race, Jesus, and Santa

I have thought about what Santa teaches kids. Santa is pure, and is white as snow — just like Jesus — who too is portrayed as white. Santa brings toys to good kids, just like the white Christ in a white “Christian” nation, who also brings the only hope for salvation. The white man must save the darker races since the darker races cannot have such a God — because they are brown. Thus those brown Muslims God must be dark and evil. Folks elected a man who wants to ban them because their God is dark and evil. This is where innocent white folks fail to capitulate their internal racism. But Santa is always white. We can say Santa’s race should not matter — but let us think about long-term implications on a kids development. Santa cannot be black. Black people are bad people. They march demanding equal rights, arguing that their lives matter, asking for protection from police brutality, etc. Oh, and capitalism paints black folks as pimps, pushers, and thugs. So — to a white suburban kid living in a white world — Santa must be white. For a black kid living in a black community — Santa must be white. That is what the world tells us.

Revisiting My 2007 Duke Post After 30 for 30

30

The District Attorney recently exonerated all members charged with sexual assault in the Duke University lacrosse case. There were clearly no winners here. Moreover, the Duke lacrosse case illustrates both the racial and class resentment that exists in America. Just like the O.J. murder case, Duke lacrosse brought to life both the social and economic problems Americans tend to ignore. Because inequality in education exists, many minorities do not receive the proper education needed to attend a Duke. Think about the number of elite private schools in the country that have a very small number of black students and faculty. Often enough, blacks are victims of educational slavery in that many live in low property tax communities. Thus, minority public schools are faced with the challenge of hiring elite faculty members as well as providing each student with adequate resources for learning. This type of class division creates resentment and hate toward those who are privileged.

For one, as popular as Duke University is with its $ 5 billion (+) endowment, its elite faculty members, and its popular sports team (basketball), many residents living in the Durham area dislike Duke because of its perceived lack of investment in the local community. Locals contend that Duke is nothing more than a temporary haven for rich white kids from New England prep schools. Moreover, black students who attend Duke have had to create their own social environment. Campus festivals and activities are built around fraternities and “white cultural endeavors” that would clearly make blacks feel out of place. Just like the O.J. case, many of America’s black population were supporting the black female who claimed rape as a show of solidarity. Blacks want white America to see how race and class are still used to subjugate not only blacks, but non elites too. Most black Americans knew O.J. was guilty; they supported him as a form of protest against white America. Some black Americans feel as though whites in power have turned their backs on the racially abusive culture long promulgated by elitism. For example, in the minds of black folks, white supremacy is prevalent in all institutions of power, especially police departments. In Cornel West’s Race Matters, he states that

white America has been historically weak willed in ensuring racial justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of blacks. As long as double standards and differential treatment abound — as long as rap performer Ice-T is harshly condemned while former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates’s anti-black comments are received in polite silence, as long as Dr. Leonard Jeffries’s anti-Semitic statements are met with vitriolic outrage while presidential candidate Pat Buchanan’s anti-Semitism receives a general response — black nationalism will thrive.

Unlike the connection blacks feel toward the black female, they never felt any connection to O.J. He was viewed as a black elitist who turned his back on black folks, much like that of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who continues to attack affirmative action. Blacks exploited the O.J. case to show America how much racism still exists in society. As for the female who claimed rape, it appears that blacks are supporting her because there were clearly signs of racism found among the lacrosse players.

Duke

Many of them admitted to using racial slurs as well as being abusive to the black co-ed. In the end, here are the clear losers in all of this:

Women – feminism took a step backwards here. It is my understanding that rape victims are slow to come forward. Imagine if you are a college female who was date raped — will people believe you after this?
Duke’s lacrosse coach — he should not have been fired. According to an internal investigation, he did everything by the book. I feel for him.
Durham — race relations on Duke’s campus are pretty sticky.
The defendants — some left campus, lost a year of eligibility, and are faced with rebuilding their reputation

Beyonce

 

I am struggling with this video by Beyoncé. On one hand it is powerful, yet on the other hand she is still a bit of a sellout to capitalist norms that exploits black sexual desires. Hence, an interesting paradox about cultural exploitation in the video. She will fool many; however, watch carefully and challenge the approach. Brother Du Bois often struggled with this too. I like that bell hooks reminded us of Beyoncé’s virtues and support of ideological ambitions that further the modern enslavement of black folks by empowering imperialism. This video is clearly present day and antebellum; it aims to heighten one’s awareness, while reminding us of white male sexual dominance of black women. Also, it shapes a southern black spirit I first learned in my reading of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”. We black folks have built a temple of idolatry comprised of black celebrities who prey on black folks financial campaign. I watched this video and I see a conflicting political message. Yes — like Beyoncé and other slaves to the industry, I am complicit in my contributions to the industry. I must admit that as an artist this is brilliant. It will challenge us for a while as we think about race, power, and the importance of feminism.

Daniel Williams’s Book, John Fea’s Interview

History Professor and Dept. Chair, John Fea of Messiah College, hosted Daniel Williams on his podcast. Fea, who has worked with my Brooks School students in the past, engaged Williams in a discussion about the history of the pro-life movement. It was fascinating to learn that the pro-life movement started on the left as a progressive action. Williams further addressed this matter as one not aligned with political parties. I learned a great deal from both John and Daniel, and I am impressed with the degree of intellectual history presented as part of the culture war narrative. I was most intrigued by how their discussion and Williams’s book presents a historical narrative of truth telling, which allows 21st century historians the means to make logical arguments. This piece is simply fantastic. Give it a listen here.

Fox News and the Color of Christ

I really like what Jean Claude Lamarre did in his making of the Color of the Cross. It is a good piece depicting the life of Jesus; in truth, there is only so much one really knows about the life of Christ. Lamarre, like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, focuses around the final days of Christ. And though there is still much conjecture and debate regarding the final days, there is a bit more substance during the final days than say his birth and early childhood. My point here does not include the resurrection — a point of contention.

What disappoints me about this interview is how Sean Hannity ignores the basic premise of what Lamarre is saying: Jesus was a divine human being; and according to Christians, died on the cross for the salvation of their sins. In the process, Jesus suffered greatly. Again, nothing different from Gibson’s Christ. Lamarre, however, presents Christ as a black man. Yet, in this interview, Lamarre again and again states that he is doing nothing different from what other directors have done: Presents what is believed to be an accurate story of the final days of Christ. Fox News and Hannity only saw black Christ. Much like Fox News Megyn Kelly who outraged folks by reminding them that Jesus and Santa could not and were not black, Hannity also focused on the race narrative.

Thus, for decades Christ has been portrayed as Eurocentric. There were few if any arguments about that depiction. But, when an artist presents him as anything but white or Arab, there is a reaction. Might this be a sign of cultural superiority? I recall noted historian Edward Blum discussing in his book The Color of Christ that most black Americans adopted the presentation of a white Christ. After slavery ended, the advent and course of Jim Crow did not detract blacks from their white Jesus. Though I was not churched nor did I take part in Sunday services growing up, I do recall visiting black churches and observing how they prominently displayed images of a white Christ.

It is my understanding, however, that many blacks did not fully adopt a black Christ until the 1960s — roughly around the time of Black Power. Hence, James Cone’s emergence of Black Liberation Theology expressed the power of black folks by, according to Cone:

Express a moral or theological appeal based on a white definition of morality or theology will serve as a detriment to our attainment of black freedom. The only option we blacks have is to fight in every way possible, so that we can create a definition of freedom based on our own history and culture. We must not expect white people to give us freedom. Freedom is not a gift, but a responsibility, and thus must be taken against the will of those who hold us in bondage.

I conclude with this: If race does not matter to the majority, why get upset when the minority creates a piece of art displaying Jesus, but in an image other than what is mainstream? Further, this clip also alludes to the fact that the filmmaker is making too much out of race, when in fact, he is doing what most people have done in the arts: Telling a story. During my last year at Capitol Heights in Montgomery, Alabama, I was in the school play in which I played Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’1843 work, A Christmas Carol.The issue was not race; we had some white people here who could have played the role of Scrooge. The message was the story, not the race of Eddie Carson playing Dickens’ white character. Hence, that is the point missed by Hannity.

Beyoncé wants to be an Active Feminist

An interesting article headlining Miley Cyrus and Beyonce reads: If Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé want to be feminist, they need to quit the celebrity machine. Author Gaylene Gould got it right and in doing so, ignited a conversation between myself and professor Hunter. Our December 18th discussion went something like this:

Hunter: In reflecting on recent discussions on beyonce’s declaration about her feminism, i’m trying to discern the difference between identification with an ideology and activism that leads to social transformation.

Carson: I like this reflection my friend and colleague is wrestling with. Dr. Hunter has given me something to ponder. Though I am black and educated in the spirit of the bourgeoisie, I believe that my activism will always be proletarian, as I noted regarding W.E.B Du Bois. If that means passively protesting a commencement speaker or organizing a walkout during an assembly — both of which I have done, they serve as a model to my students that I am serious about both action and teaching. I can live with that. Folks confuse leadership sometimes. Too many stationary books on what leadership looks like. It is a commercialized industry.

Hunter: knock it off ed. I’m just joe PhD. lol. I’m not trying to set the bar too high for anyone, but the history of black feminism, on all levels, is filled with known and unknown black women who put in work.

Carson: But the fact that you are creating and encouraging this discussion is what validates you and your point. People confuse talk with inactivity. It is the talk that promulgates action. And here, you are speaking towards our cultural ignorance and inconsistencies. Yes, what about the many sisters who are not commercialized but act? I want the bar high.

Hunter: Ella Baker talked. Angela Davis talked and continues to speak. Toni Morrison talks and writes, but in many ways Oprah’s philanthropy speaks to me of a feminist agenda. As you know, I think caring means learning about the conditions of structural violence so that we have good, thoughtful, and articulate hearts that are able to describe the marginalizing structures of power and then in winsome terms attract those with similar moral intuitions or commitments. As you know, discourse is critical to meaningful social transformation. For that reason, as an educator, I’m interested in the intellectual and moral (spiritual) formation of my students AND colleagues.

Carson: Unfortunately, folks either forget or do not want to revisit the narrative once scripted for such dialogue about race and gender. Angela Davis’ dealings with the Panthers and the Communist Party of America denotes her own class and racial alienation. Toni Morrison’s deepest narratives points to matters deemed too taboo to discuss in the mainstream. Intra-class and black racism works against our own sense of being consciously aware — as Marxism has taught us. A history of shade (i.e., high yellow) and incest that demonized blacks folks for centuries continues to hunt us. Both Davis and Morrison have spoken to these matters. Yet, it is Oprah who reminds us through her philanthropy in a different fashion that class and racial consciousness still exist. I think to her support of Obama or the movie Great Debaters that showcased the rise of a young Farmer who became an activist in addressing matters of inequality. Or, her book club. I do not think folks see the thread or theme with her book selections as they relate to your point on ideology and activism. Unlike Davis, who used her action and education to denounce class and racial injustices, Oprah managed to transcend both among the most unsuspecting audience: white homemakers. Unfortunately, I am not convinced she nor Davis nor Baker nor Morrison can compete with the false personification of modern celebs like Beyonce. Young sisters want to shake the booty. And that is okay. As long as the shaking stays in the club and the real work continues through a well articulated message. This has always been my message to the black sisters in my courses.

Hunter: The great debates, zora, morrison, edwidge danticat for morrison, etc and so on. the difference is Morrison’s work began with a self-reflective writing exercise that looked at hegemonic power and internalized oppression and the human condition. Instead of seeking celebrity, she wrote a book that she wanted to read. That personal work translated into social transformation, created other opportunities for black writers, as well as celebrity. These consequences were the unintended consequence of tending to her soul and asking important questions out loud. we can go on and on on this one.

Carson: Agreed!!! Darn did I really forget about sister Hurston? Yes. My mind is now racing out of control. Thanks for giving me so much to think about. I needed this today.

Do You Really Have to Believe in God?

Throughout my academic life, the question of faith has been a constant one. For many believers, they struggle comprehending the notion of the intellectual gravitas of nonbelievers in a societal order. Further, it is fully incomprehensible for nonbelievers to grasp the religious thinking of believers. I once worked with a person who could not help but note when I was contemplating a decision or a thought, it was the norm for me to reference that I was in thought over the matter. This person told me that you are just not like many in our community in that you do not reference “prayer.” Yes, this is silly. Again, one does not have to believe in a god, nor must one be a nonbeliever to be a big thinker.

That said, I am a big believer in “religious” thought. It is crucial that we as a society honor and respect the values of others. I try not to group all Christians, Muslims, and atheists into a generalized box. That would be false — and to an extent, anti-intellectual; however, I do believe in the nature of a plural society: One’s religious dogma should not dictate nor legislate a societal order.


Great scene here

This is best represented in the movie Contact, a work written by the Carl Sagan. In what is the most interesting scene in the movie, the character portrayed by Jodi Foster, a scientist who is also a nonbeliever, admits her lack of faith in a god. By doing so, her conclusion works against her challenge to represent earth in making contact with aliens. The conversation about why the panel rejected her is most interesting, which presents the following questions: Should a nonbeliever be a representative of a planet in which a majority of its inhabitants believe in a god? Why should a nonbeliever be denied the opportunity when most people of faith cannot agree on civil peace and understanding among a diversity of believers? I contend that one does not have to believe in a god. Nonbelievers are honest and moral people. Being a believer does not make one more just nor moral than the other.

I do believe that if one is truly educated, he or she will have an understanding of religious constructs outside of doctrinal beliefs. If Jodi Foster’s character or anyone for that matter lacked an understanding of world beliefs, they should not be a representative of a planet in which the majority of folks believe in a god or gods.

Religious Test

As reflected above with my score, I recently took this (click on link here) religious literacy test. In truth, it was very easy. Though I am highly versed and educated on global beliefs, I realize many are not. I cannot believe I missed the question that I missed.